Sunday, March 27, 2011

NCL Spirit, Part 2

Today on the Spirit I've been on a mission, talking to families and individuals sharing this cruise experience. Another surprise. I met a nice family of five on their first cruise, with childen ranging from 2 to 13. Mom and dad booked a balcony with an inside cabin across the hall for the kiddos. The parents, too, had read some negative reviews about the Spirit on both Cruise Critic and the NCL website, but booked anyway with somewhat low expectations.

Mom said they have absolutely no complaints! Their son was seasick the first night, so their cabin steward offered to check on him while the family ate and would call the restaurant if there was a problem. Likewise, the maitre d‘ of the restaurant, Cherry, sent crackers and an apple to his cabin and called him by name when seeing him a couple of days later with his folks. Bad service? Not.

Frankly, I must say that the entire staff and crew have been some of the friendliest we've ever encountered on any ship, down to the security personnel checking us on and off the ship--usually the most somber of them all. Every crew member I‘ve passed has smiled and greeted me--and trust me, I‘ve been keeping track. Okay, so the over-zealous, “wake-y, wake-y“ buffet greeters sometimes got old, but they definitely generated laughter and applause when making an appearance at the end of the final big production show.

I paid in advance for a $30 birthday celebration package for Ben. Our cabin steward with assistance from two other stewards really decoorated the room beautifully, positioning my gift just as I requested. Yes, a purchased service, but these guys and gals delivered flawlessly.

I also spoke to two other couples--one on their first cruise and the other having sailed the Caribbean Princess a little over a year ago. The first was very impressed with service, especially from their cabin steward. The other gave the edge to Princess, but still thought this cruise was fine for an escape from wintry Toronto, just not up to their Caribbean Princess experience--a much newer ship, of course. And I did emphasize that this is a spring cruise (translate, tons of chldren and college kids), which alters the character of any ship.

One more thing about cabin configurations. Ocean view cabins have the same split bathroom feature, but inside cabins do not. However, the family sailing said their three kids had plenty of space in their inside cabin.

We‘ll give the food mostly very good marks with a few exceptions. Cagney‘s is simply excellent. We thought the food in the Italian restaurant was better on the Epic than the Spirit. Shogun‘s was okay, although admittedly we‘re not big on Asian food. We ate in the Windows main dining room and found the redfish and lobster combo to be dry and the salad too warm. By contrast, my flounder and the rest of both our selections were delicious in the other main dining room, The Garden. Our service was also much better there, too. The buffet offered standard selections, but I‘ll give a specific thumbs-up for the coffee (which often tastes terrible to me), oatmeal (just the right texture), salad bar, and smoked salmon. Teppanyaki was booked solid very quickly, and we never made it there. As always, we love the convenience of NCL‘s in-cabin coffee makers.

Tomorow we‘ll dock in New Orleans, where I will upload this blog. I'll post comments about excursions and entertainment after we are back in the office.

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